Not that I'm complaining, but I'm constantly amazed by the number of people who stop me in the street at any time in the day or night and assume that "How's the real estate market?" is another way of saying, "How are you?" or "Wassup?"
I'm a Realtor, yet for many friends, clients and ad readers, I am the keeper of information that has become too much of a bell weather for their financial health. When I give my answers, I can hear their minds tally the spreadsheets and refresh the new totals.
As an immigrant from another part of Canada, I think that Torontonians are too obsessed with "market" and have forgotten the "estate" part of "real estate market". No matter what the size, your home is where you entertain friends, express your private relationships, and raise your children. It should be your haven and not be judged by its fluctuating financial worth.
When I open my townhouse door, I feel happy to be HOME. That fuzzy warm feeling is the thermometer that you should use when you buy. No matter how good a price you bought for or could sell for, if that warm fuzziness is not there, you are missing the whole point of home ownership.
We've just gone through the holiday party season. Every year, as we get closer to party time, I start to cocoon. I intend to make it to all those invitations but often find excuses. I'd like to go talk about movies, food and the other interests that encompass my life. I'd love to talk about cars, furniture and all of those wonderful things that we buy every day, enjoy and gladly depreciate monetarily. However, I know that by the time I have my coat off and hit the bar, someone I don't even know is asking me, "How's the real estate market?" I also realize that Realtors have the power to cause a suicidal depression or a Holt Renfrew shopping spree.
And how do I respond? If I say that the market is good, in light of what is going on in the world, then I'm either lying or feel I should be filled with some sort of survivor guilt because I have had sales. If I say it's bad, then I'm completing a self-fulfilling prophecy. Seeing that I don't like being around negative people, even I want to walk away from me. I usually try to dodge the questions, but as the evening lengthens, my answers get crisper, my temper shorter, and I start yearning for the magic time when I won't be the first to leave the party.
The Real Estate Council of Ontario is getting stricter about "agency" or fiduciary duty. It tells you that under their rules, any comment that Realtors make and act upon brings both parties into an agency relationship. Nothing deadens a party like a lengthy explanation of agency relationship, when it's the response to "How's the market?"
As the years go by, fewer invitations come my way and I'm drawn down south over the holidays to a place where no one knows that I sell real estate in Toronto. I can breathe easy, pretend to have a million other careers, and never face the scrutiny that exists as a Realtor in Toronto.
Don't get me wrong. I absolutely love my city and especially my business. But, what I love about it is being able to put someone in a home, watch his or her families grow, and be part of that process. There are few highs that can compare. Speculating on fluctuating value is not one of them.
In light of the many issues in the world, let's hope we move to focus on the quality of life in our homes and less on their value. I hope that next holiday season, more of my clients will remember that real estate agents like to party too!